Josh Allen stands 6-foot-5 in bare feet and weighs 225 pounds. Prototype size for a quarterback.
Allen has a fluid release and his passes arrive at their target as if strung to a cable. Prototype arm.
He can sense danger in the pocket, his feet are nimble and he can throw accurately on the run. Prototype athleticism.
He’s intelligent and comes from a great family that helped forge a strong work ethic, and his teams have always been winners. Prototype intangibles.
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If Wyoming’s redshirt sophomore possesses each of these qualities (and he does), then there’s a question that must be asked:
How did so many FBS teams miss out on a quarterback with Allen’s prototypical size, arm, athleticism and intangibles?
Especially the one that plays its home games 54 miles from his family’s front door.
The answer can be boiled down to two main factors: One, Allen did a lot of growing during his senior year of high school and one semester of community college. Two, he’s from Firebaugh.
“Let’s face it,” Joel Allen said over the phone from San Diego, where his son and the rest of the Wyoming Cowboys are readying for Wednesday’s Poinsettia Bowl against BYU. “The kid from Firebaugh is not going to get the most attention.”
I would say the biggest thing people missed on was his size – not his ability. Because his ability didn’t change. He’s just taller.
David Brown, coach who recruited Josh Allen to Wyoming
With two stoplights, a population of 7,549 and some 20 miles from the nearest freeway, Firebaugh is a little off the beaten path even for a region that’s a little off the beaten path nationally.
Allen also played basketball and baseball in high school, which meant his focus was never 100 percent on football.
“Because he was a three-sport guy, he didn’t go out and do the camp circuit like a lot of kids do in California,” said Brent Vigen, Wyoming’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. “He just wasn’t exposed.”
Still, it’s not as if Allen was completely unknown outside the West Sierra League, where Firebaugh went 10-2 during his senior season in 2013.
Coaches at Fresno State, the school Allen grew up rooting for, knew about him. They knew about him because Firebaugh participated in a 7-on-7 camp at Bulldog Stadium following Allen’s junior year.
Fresno State had enough interest that Pete Germano, the Bulldogs’ primary local recruiter under former coach Tim DeRuyter, once drove to The Farmer’s Daughter, the Firebaugh restaurant owned and operated by LaVonne Allen, Josh’s mom.
There was enough interest to invite Allen and his dad for an unofficial campus visit, where they met with then-offensive coordinator Dave Schramm.
Nothing came of it.
“After that, they stopped calling and showing interest,” Joel Allen said. “They told us (Josh) didn’t fit into their style of offense.”
Let’s be fair to Fresno State’s ex-coaches. The quarterback they scouted during the summer of 2013 was not the same strapping specimen who’s already being touted as an early-round NFL draft choice.
As laughable as that sounds now, let’s be fair to Fresno State’s ex-coaches. The quarterback they scouted during the summer of 2013 was not the same strapping specimen who’s already being touted as an early-round NFL draft choice. He had the arm but not the size.
Back then, Allen was 6-2 and 190 pounds. The coaches advised him to go to community college.
Said Dad, “They wanted him to grow and develop – and he did.”
The Allens never heard from Fresno State again. But last month, when athletic director Jim Bartko introduced Jeff Tedford as DeRuyter’s replacement, Bartko specifically mentioned “Firebaugh” as a place where the Bulldogs would recruit.
That was no slip of the tongue.
The reason Allen is starring for Wyoming and not someplace else can be attributed to one man. His name is David Brown.
As you may recall, Brown was Fresno State’s safeties coach during the 2013 season. After one year with the Bulldogs, he joined Craig Bohl’s Wyoming staff in the same capacity.
Brown spent only one season in Laramie – he says he was not retained – but Cowboys fans should be immensely grateful.
With no scholarship offers out of high school, Allen attended Reedley College in the fall of 2014. Even then, he didn’t start for the Tigers until an Oct. 4 game against Fresno City.
“If I didn’t have to go (to community college), I wouldn’t have,” Allen said. “I had no Division I offers, and I really felt like I was a Division I football player. Going the JUCO route helped me get to the situation I wanted.”
(Fresno State’s coaches) told us Josh didn’t fit into their style of offense.
Joel Allen, Josh’s father
On Nov. 1, Wyoming had a road game against Fresno State. Brown, whose recruiting territory included the Valley, came out a couple of days in advance. One of his stops was Reedley College to meet with then-coach Randy Whited. He did not go there to recruit Allen but one of his teammates.
“I stopped by and (Whited) kind of let me know they had this freshman kid that’s a helluva football player. ‘You should probably check him out because nobody knows about him,’ ” Brown recalled. “So he gave me the film and the name – and right away when he said the name, I’m like, ‘I didn’t know Josh Allen went there. I thought he went to a four-year school.’ ”
The quarterback Brown saw on video did not much resemble the kid whom he remembered from Fresno State’s 7-on-7 camp and hearing about in the staff room. He had sprouted to 6-5 and weighed about 210 pounds.
“The size that Josh Allen is right now, the size that makes him an NFL prototype guy, he didn’t have going into his senior year (of high school),” said Brown, now defensive coordinator at Division II Texas A&M-Kingsville. “There was a significant difference.”
Wyoming wasn’t really looking for a midyear community college quarterback, but Brown couldn’t ignore what he saw.
Wyoming wasn’t looking for a midyear community college quarterback (the coaches already had one on the hook), but Brown couldn’t ignore what he saw. When he found out Allen had good grades (3.8 GPA) and more about his background, Brown knew this guy needed to be on his radar.
“Really all the boxes you like to check in a recruit, Josh had them,” Brown said.
Brown sent the video to Vigen, largely responsible for developing Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz when they were at North Dakota State. Vigen immediately liked what he saw. He also had a feeling what he saw might be too good to be true.
“It was enough to pique my interest,” Vigen said. “Taking a junior college kid with one year under his belt wasn’t really what we were looking for. We were trying to get high school kids and develop them. But the combination of size, athleticism and what appeared to be a pretty live arm made us pay attention.
“The moment anything comes up like that, you wonder, ‘What’s up? What’s the story?’ That’s why it was important to get out there and get some of the backstory.”
Wyoming stomped Fresno State 45-17 (“I think that opened his eyes up a little bit,” Vigen said), but Josh and his dad were not in attendance. After the season, Vigen visited Firebaugh on consecutive weekends to meet with Allen, his family and his high school coach, Bill Magnusson.
We play at Fresno once every four years. It was pretty fortunate that was the one time.
Brent Vigen, Wyoming offensive coordinator and QBs coach
In Firebaugh, Vigen learned about Allen’s work ethic, developed by moving irrigation pipe on his father’s farm and washing dishes at his mother’s restaurant. He learned about Allen’s prodigious athletic talents (he’s also an excellent swimmer) and that his teams always seemed to play in the championship game. He learned about Allen’s natural competitive streak and toughness.
“I remember leaving Firebaugh and thinking, ‘OK, we might just have something here,’ ” Vigen said. “That was probably the moment where I really felt like we had to do everything we can to get him.”
Once the other quarterback Wyoming had lined up backed out of his commitment, Allen became the primary focus. Seventeen FBS schools showed interest, but only two, Wyoming and Eastern Michigan, offered full scholarships right then and there. And of the 17 schools, Bohl was the only head coach to make a home visit.
“He looked at me right in the eye and said, ‘Your son is going to be the face of my program for the next three years,’ ” Joel Allen said. “It was such an emotional moment. My wife and I were in tears. How do you say no to that?”
Allen signed a national letter of intent and transferred to Wyoming right away. Still, not everything has gone smoothly. His first career start, in Week 2 of the 2015 campaign, lasted just 13 plays before a broken right clavicle ended his season.
I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
Josh Allen, on Wyoming
In the 2016 opener, Allen capped a 40-34 triple-overtime victory over Northern Illinois by scrambling the width of the field on a third-down bootleg and diving headfirst into the end zone. Just the start of things to come. The Cowboys won eight games, hosted the Mountain West Conference championship and Allen was named second-team all-conference thanks to his strong arm and mobility.
“Probably the most impressive thing is the way he scrambles – keeps plays alive and then makes just unbelievable throws off the run from scramble situations,” New Mexico coach Bob Davie said. “It really is impressive to watch.”
The more Allen plays, the more his talent shines. According to Joel Allen, the family has already been besieged by agents full of rosy predictions about his NFL future. During the MW championship game broadcast, commentator Brian Griese likened him to Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco.
Allen’s small-town roots and relatively late growth spurt are the primary reasons so many teams whiffed on him. Except, of course, Wyoming. And he’s glad for that.
“It’s been quite a ride,” Allen said. “This season has been so much fun. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”
From Firebaugh to Laramie
WYOMING QB JOSH ALLEN
- Class: Redshirt sophomore
- Height/weight: 6-foot-5/225 pounds
- Previous schools: Firebaugh High, Reedley College
- 2016 stats: 192 of 341 passing (56.3 percent) for 2,996 yards, 26 TDs, 13 interceptions; 485 rushing yards, 7 TDs
- They said it: “I remember leaving Firebaugh and thinking, ‘OK, we might just have something here.’ That was probably the moment where I really felt like we had to do everything we can to get him.” – Brent Vigen, Wyoming offensive coodinator/QBs coach